Digital to help the poor?

Technology has revolutionized the world in the sense that the whole planet has become a small village. The spectacular growth rate of the world economy, enhanced by rapid technological change, was unprecedented. It has improved the well-being and living standards of billions of the poorest people.

Since the 18th century, Western societies have entered modernity. People are gradually withdrawing from religious beliefs to build human progress in the fields of individual freedom, reason and science. Cult has made room for culture. At the same time as the cultural transformation, the industrial revolution of the late 19th century stands out for its radical advances in science and technology, whose cycles of technological development created economic, demographic and progress growth. Religion no longer has the answer to everything in favour of science which generates incredible technological progress.

This is how man frees himself from the restrictions of nature: Through the control of coal and the steam engine that corresponded to the first industrial revolution, then oil and electricity which coincided with the second industrial revolution. This domestication of energy has made it possible to increase agricultural productivity. The fight against hunger has been won both upstream and downstream in the West. Upstream, agriculture benefits from petrochemicals by using imports of fertilizers and phytosanitary products, to increase production. Downstream, the energy food processing and preservation industry enables food diversification and food preservation for longer periods of time. This food bank establishes itself as a ‘weapon’ against hunger.

At the same time, advances in medicine are leading to a decrease in mortality and helping to curb infectious diseases. Ever since Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur, diseases have been defined by their causes and not by their symptoms. The distribution of water through energy creates an enormous progress in hygiene and this marks the beginning of a spectacular advance in public health. It is also the advancement of the invention of laboratory equipment that promotes disease detection and drug research.

This considerable technical progress will then translate into an unprecedented expansion of the world’s population. After a slow growth (from the 14th to the end of the 17th century), it will multiply by twelve in three centuries. It goes from 600 million human souls in 1700 to eight billion in 2019. Since 1945, the world has grown and transformed. The technical and human development is so rapid and widespread that it is called “great acceleration”. From the end of the Second World War, people wanted to “devour life”. The human population has tripled, and energy consumption is increasing in sixfold. This increase in population is accompanied by an acceleration in consumption. The number of passenger cars in circulation has already risen from 40 million in 1945 to 1 billion in 2019. With this extrapolation, we imagine that the number of passenger cars in the world will also increase.

But it is the discovery of the internet and everything that goes with it that will upset the whole world in the early 1990s. From the billions of laptops sold, billions of smartphones will be added as of 2018. Barely 10 years earlier, Apple brought 1.4 billion smartphones (iPhone) to the market and in 2019, more than three billion people owned a smartphone.

A staggering increase when you know that the lifespan of a smartphone is no longer than 2 years. This is indeed one of the biggest challenges of smartphone manufacturing, as production consumes more natural resources. With a significant impact on the environment and the stability of so-called fragile nations.

Advances in technological have also led to sophisticated investigations to solve crimes. Almost (apart from Xavier Dupont de Ligonès, the Frenchman from Nantes, who disappeared 10 years ago after killing his entire family), all crimes are being solved thanks to essential technological development. The mobile phone, and especially smartphones, provide the first clues to crimes. Geolocation allows a criminal to be apprehended with his own mobile phone.

Other advanced techniques are used to track down and even decipher criminals. Security cameras tucked away on every corner are the favourite tools of detectives. All the smart cards we use for the bank, the bus and as an identity card can provide clues about where we are and destroy an alibi in a split second. But it is DNA fingerprints that are the biggest breakthrough in the fight against crime. The DNA found at the crime scene is conclusive evidence.

Technological advancement, which allows us to access our needs easily and quickly, such as bank accounts or Internet data, make our lives easier. But they can also be used to spy on us or even invade our privacy. And yet we are not finished with these technological advancements. Soon small gadgets produced by artificial intelligence will be part of our lives. Small gadgets will probably be used to explore our bodies and give warnings for certain diseases, such as malignant cancers. Aircraft will be able to pilot themselves automatically and other discoveries, surprising as they may be, will emerge.

However, the world is still dominated by wealth inequalities. Some wealthier countries are concentrating the benefits of these technological advances, while others are not coming out of the stone age. In many African countries few citizens manage to afford a smartphone. Sometimes the price is higher than the salary of the average university-educated official. Faced with this inequality, they turn to ingenuity. They take second-hand phones or fall back on shoddy and cheaper telephones produced in China for the poor. Will these technological advancements, that have brought miracles to mankind, change the history of Africa? Will they come to assist Africa to fight against its plagues: hunger, health, homelessness, corruption, state crimes, human rights violations, injustice…?  This site aims to inventory the advancement of technology in selected African countries and to explore the priority sectors to be developed for the welfare of the people of Africa.